Sunday, November 18, 2007

Broody eagles boost chick numbers

Broody eagles boost chick numbers

Scotland's breeding population of sea eagles has risen to its highest number since the reintroduction programme began more than 30 years ago.
RSPB Scotland said 42 territorial breeding pairs had been logged, an increase of six pairs since last year.

The charity added that the breeding eagles had led to a record 34 chicks.

Skye, Mull and the Western Isles remain the core population areas since the species were brought back through reintroduction programmes.

The on-going monitoring of white tailed eagles, as they are also known, is conducted by the Sea Eagle Project team, which includes RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.

Jeremy Wilson, head of research at RSPB Scotland and the chairman of the sea eagle project team, said: "It has been a fantastic year for these stunning birds, which are now firmly established as a totem of the incredible natural heritage that Scotland plays host to.

"This breeding population is likely to continue to rise in coming years as juveniles from the reintroduction programmes reach sexual maturity, find vacant territories and pair up with a mate, with which they remain faithful for life.

"Eventually, as they continue to spread out, and west and east coast populations meet, we can expect to see these majestic birds all around Scotland's coast, bringing this fantastic and inspiring spectacle to people throughout the country."

Norway nests

The project team understands that there are about 200 individual sea eagles resident in Scotland .

The reintroduction programme began on the island of Rum from 1975 to 1983 and then on to Wester Ross from 1993 to 1998.

This year breeding pairs have established territories as far south as the Argyll islands and west on to the mainland in the Highland district of Lochaber. Now the final phase of the programme to firmly establish a population right across Scotland is introducing chicks taken from nests in Norway to the east coast.

Fifteen chicks were released in Fife at the beginning of August, and up to 20 young birds from Norway will be released each year for the next four years.

It is hoped that this population will eventually mix with the west coast birds and set up territories right round the suitable coastal habitats of Scotland.

In addition, conservationists in Ireland have taken similar steps to reintroduce sea eagles in the Killarney area of South West Ireland.


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